Garland throws shutout against Royals
Right-hander saves his best for last against Kansas City
CHICAGO -- Jon Garland had every intention of finishing off his sixth career shutout during Wednesday night's contest against the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.
The right-hander just wasn't certain if his manager shared the same sentiment.
"In the eighth inning, I saw him walking toward me in the dugout and I wasn't sure if he was going to give it to me or not," said Garland of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who allowed Garland to go back out for the ninth and complete the 3-0 victory for the White Sox.
"I didn't know my pitch count," added Garland, who threw 74 of his 106 pitches for strikes. "In the same breath, I don't have to pick up a baseball for three months. It was nice to see him let me go."
Garland (10-13) allowed just three hits during his second complete game of 2007 and the eighth of his career, striking out two and walking two. He surpassed 200 innings pitched for the fourth straight season and raised his record to 2-3 for the month of September, despite allowing a paltry six earned runs over 39 innings in that stretch.
This run of consistency seems fitting for a talented young hurler, who won 36 games combined over the last two years and mirrored the consistent way he started the 2007 season. Garland had everything but the winning record to be considered for an All-Star selection.
His success dovetailed for a period of 10 starts, including trips to the mound against Minnesota and Seattle in which Garland yielded double-digit runs to the opposition. Guillen believes this shaky middle for Garland was due to a lack of aggressiveness.
According to Garland, the run of bad luck was more about pitch location.
"If I went back and looked at it, everything was up," said Garland of his midseason struggles. "Not making quality pitches throughout games. You can't do that in the big leagues. You are going to get beat around."
"Jon is just throwing the ball outstanding the last month, month and a half of the season," Guillen added. "He's trying to get those guys to hit the ball early in the count. He's making a good pitch when he has to make good pitches and that is the result. This is the Jon Garland that we know what he can do. When he's got his sinkerball working, this kid can be real tough for somebody to get it going."
Although Garland's sinker seemed to work at a high efficiency level on Wednesday, judging by 11 ground ball outs from the Royals (68-90), catcher Toby Hall said it was more a mix of Garland's offspeed stuff that ultimately made the difference. Garland had just pitched against the Royals on Sept. 20, a 78-pitch complete game which resulted in a 3-0 loss at Kauffman Stadium.
So, Hall tried to mix things up with his pitcher's approach against the same opponent after studying the previous videotape.
"He threw a lot of offspeed pitches for strikes and used his two-seamer when we needed it," Hall said. "That was an awesome display of pitching. It was a good way to end his year."
"Toby and I got into a nice little rhythm, and he was calling the pitches I liked," Garland added.
Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye provided all of the offensive support off of Zack Greinke (7-7) with first- and fourth-inning home runs, respectively. Thome went deep for the 33rd time this season, passing Eddie Murray for sole possession of 20th place on the all-time list with 505 long balls.
Dye's two-run shot gave him 28 for the season and left the White Sox (69-89) with 185 home runs as a team. Wednesday's victory evened this three-game set at one game apiece, and left the South Siders with a magic number of four to clinch fourth place in the American League Central.
Not exactly the target the White Sox set before the 2007 season began. But players such as Garland know a team's fortunes can change very quickly.
"Definitely, I've always said that," Garland said. "When things are going great, you just can't assume it will continue. You have to expect things to happen during the season, and it's a matter of how you deal with those things."
Everyone in the White Sox organization expects this team to bounce back in 2008, but whether Garland is part of that comeback process won't be decided for a few months. Garland, who turns 28 on Thursday, has one more year at $12 million on his current contract, and has been a steadying force as part of a solid starting rotation.
But Garland also could bring back the most talent in return with a high trade value always existing for a durable and successful pitcher. Just 30 minutes or so after his final start and victory of 2007, Garland wasn't ready to think about whether it was the final start and victory of his White Sox career.
"Our season is not even over yet and you are telling me to worry about my future," said Garland, who became the first White Sox pitcher since Javier Vazquez (July 3 and July 7 of this season) to throw back-to-back complete games.
"No, it's not even in my hands at this moment. There's nothing I can do about it," Garland added. "I would like to be back here and keep on in my career in Chicago, but it remains to be seen."
When pressed about feelings coming from the last start of his season, Garland made his thoughts a bit clearer.
"I still believe I will be here so I won't even indulge in that one," Garland said.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.